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Panthers must make the most of upcoming homestand

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Cats need to start winning if they are serious about postseason repeat

NHL: Florida Panthers at Arizona Coyotes Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

With the Florida Panthers getting another off day before opening a four-game homestand on Thursday, let’s take stock of where the club sits in the standings.

The struggle is real, very real in the Atlantic Division. A mere five points separates the guaranteed playoff spot a third place finish brings from the depths of last place.

Florida’s 50 points has them in fifth place just four behind the Boston Bruins who currently hold down that coveted three spot (by a hair). The Cats have two games in hand on the Bruins and could forge a tie in the standings by winning them.

The Panthers other path to the postseason is capturing a wild card, and by wild card I mean the second of the two, as WC1, ring now the Rangers, have a thirteen point lead on the Cats as of this morning and have also played one less game.

Toronto currently holds the second wild card and they not only have a 3-point lead over Florida, but have played four fewer games.

Looking at the standings, the best case for the Panthers is for Toronto to pass the struggling Bruins for third place (the Leafs have a whopping six games in hand on the Bruins), which will probably happen, and then for the Cats to do the same and take the second wild card.

That’s the good news. The bad news is it’s entirely likely the Cats could soon find themselves in the division cellar as the teams just one point behind them (Buffalo, Detroit and Tampa Bay) have either games in hand or are simply playing better as of late.

The Panthers simply must make the most of this homestand that sees Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Anaheim and Los Angeles come to town. Anything less than a 3-1 record and you can start talking seriously about this season being unofficially over if you haven’t already.